My latest commission is to design and make a patchwork quilt to be placed on a bed in a show garden for this year’s RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park. This is the idea of plants-woman and garden designer, Julie Dunn, And I think that her design is really intriguing – to make a garden for recuperation and healing, full of scented plants and herbs that aid relaxation plus a double bed in which to rest.
When Julie first contacted me, I responded by asking for her ideas for the atmosphere of the garden, particularly her chosen plants, so that I could give her some fabrics to consider.
She had very definite ideas of the actual fabrics that she wanted – they were by Kaffe Fassett and they featured flowering plants, most notably Brassica – the classic fabric featuring flowers that looks like roses but are in fact cabbages.
I pulled together several colour “stories” to choose from. although they are similar they give very different overall tones – I wanted the quilt to reflect and augment the garden, not overwhelm it
The sheer scale and incongruity of the bed in the small ‘Back to Back” gardens in the show, means that it will dominate if we are not careful with the pattern and the colours
The large enveloping quilt needs to give a feeling of comfort and protection as well as being light-weight and warm whilst the sleeper is wrapped up in it. I already knew what the backing fabric would be – Dream, one of my favourite Kaffe Fassett fabrics.
Julie and I spent a day in my studio, and with her visuals pinned to the quilt wall, we started to develop a design together. I wanted a very simple quilt design with large scale patches, as although a decent hand-stitcher I am not a happy machine stitcher, particularly with the precision needed for patchwork.
Working with the first of the colour-way choices shown above, I cut simple large scale heads from several shades of the Brassica fabric and simply made a chequer-board formation with them. This first attempt look too strongly coloured, but the simple square format was good as it showed the full ‘flower’ heads of the cabbages. But the simple deep pink strips looked too solid and they would dominate the entire quilt, we needed a more subtle variation. Cut into triangular sections, the square becomes a diamond
Julie was happier with this softer set of fabrics; strangely adding more patterns and colours often makes a design more subtle, the secret is to work within a tonal range – these red triangles dominate here – they may have to go eventually!
I tried to balance the deep colour with a strong striped border but the dark blue stripes make the centre even more dominant. Julie wants the magenta red to stay as it is exactly the colour of a chosen Sanguisorba – I take her word for it.
working on through the afternoon we slowly we start to feel that the colours, although strong, are softened over all and now enough of the quilt is decided for me to carry on developing the design from here.
The actual quilt needs to very large, Julie’s vision of it is to cover the bed almost to the floor, this useful as I see the bed to be a type of extending couch- a day bed. Julie sees a four poster!
We turn our minds to the application forms and read them extensively and decide that I will illustrate the envisaged quilt on the envisaged bed in the envisaged garden…this I can do more easily than make the quilt, having illustrated all sorts of ‘envisaged’ designs for gardens, plants, embroideries, fabrics, enamels, clothes…..so I offered to illustrate the whole of the garden application.
We discuss the problem of the English weather, even in July, we will need a canopy. I imagine that you would not use the bed when it was raining, but at a pinch could hide under a canopy at the head of it – if we use a day bed. But the vision of a real romantic bed with curtains is still the main aim. This is when as a designer, you have to really listen carefully to the client – and try to find a compromise; a drawing, even a scrappy one often makes your point, the metal sub-structure of the canopy will dominate the small garden.
Of course the one thing I felt I must do was to inform Kaffe Fassett of our plans. So at our next quilt design meeting I showed him the scribbled design drawing and the other garden plans and asked for his “blessing” for the project and could he sponsor it with his fabrics? His immediate reaction was to offer more suggestions about the design using lots of other fabrics I could use.
I am leaving the next stage of illustrating the garden for the application for another post – watch this space.
And so to Bath, to launch the Heart Space Studio book, ‘Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique’ at the American Museum, with a workshop in the morning to show how to make ribbon beads. I made these originally as a way of using up all the small ends of Jaquard ribbons made by the American company Renaissance Ribbons left over from the other projects in the book – but also to show off the wonderful floating threads that form on the backs of the ribbons.
As the workshop was conducted for just the morning before the launch, we had only 3 hours to make beads, and knowing that choosing the ribbons and felts takes a long time, decision decisions….we had made packs of small pieces of ribbon and the felt strips – enough for 12 beads, added tiny glass beads for embellishing and some gold thread for wrapping and stitching, plus a small wooden skewer on which to assemble the beads. Each student was first asked to choose a package.
constructing the beads is easy peasy – if you can stitch neatly, I showed how to make 3 simple beads with variations.
everyone quickly got wrapping and sewing and inventing different colours and patterns, fascinating to watch so many variations happen at the first ever class I have given in this technique.
just simple plain coloured thread cross stitch when repeated looks lovely..
when all the ribbon beads are strung together with glass beads onto an elastic cord the effect is simply lovely.
After this came the launch party, so we all made our way to the Gallery.
Earlier in the week, we had designed and re-packaged the basic Renaissance Ribbon packs that the gallery had in stock to sell with the books,
we were really pleased with the effect….
lots of other people joined us for the launch…the heart Space tutors and friends all enjoyed a good time together
All in all it was a good day, and lots of other guests have blogged it as well, most notably, Rosemary Murphy on one of her blogs for September 2015 http://storiesinwood.blogspot.co.uk/–
So that’s the Launch sorted, what next?
I have been invited to the Knitting and Stitching show in London by Nik Sewell the owner of The Cotton Patch to demonstrate how to make several simple projects from the book on their stand, F27. And to sell the books as well as lots of Renaissance Ribbons and Kaffe Fassett’s lovely shot cottons that are used throughout the book. So I am now busy developing new combinations as shown above.
We are launching the new book, Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique, on Tuesday 15th September at the American Museum, near Bath. Things are a tad hectic here, even my old dog Boysie is getting in on the act posing in the Heart Space Studio window for the Ribbon book display….and all of us who are working hard on this part of the publicity keep laughing and saying to one another – “it’s a tough job…….”
Meanwhile other people have been posing in this window – all in my efforts to publicise the book
But to start at the beginning, the books have finally arrived in the building, boxes and boxes of them.
We have a small UK edition and are selling copies at various book and craft shops and galleries and of course at Heart Space Studios. The first opportunity to advertise came in the form of a photo-shoot for local press featuring the neighbouring businesses in Coldharbour Road, organised by Sue Fyfe-Williams. To make the best use of the fashion models on offer, we made masses of ribbon beads – I mean masses….
and One Solitary Earring……
But first make- up and lighting checks…
the most amazing thing about these beads is that they are made of all the left-overs of ribbon scraps from the other projects in the book – and they are the most popular item in it – we have sold out our launch Making Ribbon Beads workshop at The American Museum , but of course we are running them later this year at Heart Space.
But that’s not all – off we went this week to mount a display for the launch at the museum. Jane- Marie Mahy, Ilaria Padovani (2 of our amazing volunteers) and I arrived at the very cool and elegant Gallery Shop.
what would our hotch – potch of brilliantly coloured Kaffe Fassett inspired projects look like here?
We needn’t have worried – perfect colour co-ordination with Kaffe’s section of the shop…..was it Ruskin who said that only the noblest minds concerned themselves with colour?
eventually everything was in place
and then the gals took piccies….colour co-ordinated or what?
now all that is left to do is make the ribbon packs for the Museum to sell alongside the books; sort out the bead workshop materials and pack, get some workshop leaflets printed, organise guests to get into museum with the invitation, bring extra blue tack just in case…oh and turn up on the day in time for the launch itself……….
Shaun the Sheep – the popular cartoon character from Aardman Studios, Bristol’s world famous animation company is being celebrated with a series of decorated sheep statues being deposited in a trail throughout Bristol (and London). The local high street community, including Heart Space Studios, has sponsored a sheep sculpture and he arrives in the first week of July….meanwhile Heart Space have decided to welcome him with a knitted yarn bombed lamppost and bunting.
We recycled an old length of knitted bunting by giving it a really good wash and then Paula made lots of crocheted flowers which I stitched into place to liven it up; we are really pleased with our efforts and all our neighbours are delighted to see our new bunting, they keep photographing it…..the local children come and hug the lower area of the lamppost and we made this particular design as all proceeds for Shawn go to the Bristol Children’s Hospital
So to add to the funds we once again, by popular request, ran a children’s workshop this time to decorate bags….Paula also helped out with this – I kept well out of the way, just occasionally took the photographs….it looked very lively in the main studio..
we had provided sheep patterns for the sheep, prepared fabrics with bondaweb, found buttons beads, eyes and all kinds of stuff to play with.
as soon as the children – boys and girls – arrived they started to trace around our specially drawn templates, and using special fibre pens coloured,
we also had boys making their own characterful versions of sheep …..
choices, choices choices….the children’s imagination knew no bounds when it came to decorating the simple drawn outline.
after refreshments – provided by Ilaria and her mother, who was visiting from Italy,
and everyone had to be photographed as they left the studios.
we had lots of happy people leaving with their own very personalised bags….
‘Wings and Things’ is the working title for an exhibition being developed for the local community’s annual “Westbury Park Festival”.…last year we hosted a drop-in making felt flowers – this year we are show-casing the talents of the staff and tutors at Heart Space Studios – so no pressure!
Each of the 11 people who opted to work towards the theme have committed themselves to attending up to 3 research sessions when we all work together to make a mixed media exhibition – by mixed media I really mean any materials that can be connected to textiles, either physically or metaphorically. ‘Things with Wings’ was an idea proffered by Debby Bird (who else?) who is a busy tutor at the studios and a major force for developing new ideas for classes. We are working together to make an unusual and hopefully amusing exhibition
It is always fascinating to see how each person responds to any given the brief: we had asked for any ideas and drawings/ samples of work ready to be discussed on the day – we wanted everyone to participate in helping one another develop ideas, otherwise working in a group can be really distracting.
Steph Wooster brought several real birds wings that she had been given by a local game butcher, plus some tiny drawings in the goes-everywhere-with-her-sketchbook. She placed the book open at a pigeon drawing next to a bag of – to my mind – Pigeon Coloured materials….
Ilaria Padovani, brought a couple of samples specially prepared for the day – one a pair of collaged wings which was bright and busy, but another patchwork made from a pattern that her grandmother had made for her as a child it was her favourite winged thing – the dragonfly – and it is full of flight!
We immediately advised her to just make lots and lots of them in all sorts of different colours and to exhibit them flying randomly across the walls. I had brought in several frames to establish various sizes of each piece – Debby and I needed to have an easy hanging session prior to the exhibition opening. It was decided to wrap the dragonfly patches around small stretched canvasses and so keep them light and airy.
Many textile artists, regardless of name, work with bird imagery; Mary Bishop has made several pieces of bird related embroideries and so she brought a few of her early samples and an open mind, as it was her first tutor’s making group attendance. She is really taken with the idea of Magpies – after all they do like bright shiny objects and we always have lost of those at Heart Space.
I thought she should start with the nest – I mean she can easily do the birds at home alone – but the nest and it’s contents could be found in the studio stash….I asked her to just find lovely things a magpie might steal from us and then to make a nest from them, later she can choose to use parts of it as a sort of grounding for the birds or develop other ones from other materials….the ideas are endless here.
Some people had already started making flying things from textiles, Sophie Bristol has carefully cut wings from a length of vintage lace..the ways ahead were obvious, lots of different wings from different laces just needs to sort out the bodies – rich ground for playing with all sorts of media. However……
during the introduction when everyone had to show and talk about their own ideas she liked the idea of making a cage from a sample made in an earlier workshop.
She set about making a prototype in card and tape to ascertain the sizes and shapes required – but what will the cage contain?
One way to use a themed exhibition is to try something new or an idea that has been on the’ back-burner’. I think Kirsten Hill-Nixon thought this way. She arrived with lots of well organised materials, books and ideas – lots of drawings in her research book and a firm grasp of what she wanted to achieve…it’s a tall order!
Kirsten wants to make a series of exhibits of ‘natural’ objects trapped under glass domes…she is making different types of what look like fungi and cast off chrysalis shells. She is making them out of all types of fabrics, waxed and “preserved” – I found these curious things near a batik kettle – where are the winged things that maybe emerged form them?
Ilsa Fatt had already designed and made several beads that were based on hearts with wings but the general consensus was that she should make bigger beaded wings –
Debby Bird had made lots of tiny wings and insects using twisted silver wire and she suggested Ilsa make some and by the end of the session when the red beaded winged thing emerged we all wanted to wear it, either as a brooch or worked into a necklace.
Debby Bird always has lots of different media to develop into new and desirable objects and images…she excels in hunting out amazing new products and manages to incorporate them into her work…unlike the rest of us! She had made several different samples prior to the session but the thing she settled down to was an idea from her paper cutting experiments.
the results of a long time piercing the paper with a needle was ethereal and beautifully nuanced when see against the skylight. I am looking forward to seeing how this essentially simple idea is developed into further work….all sports of light fitments and holders could be made – I must give her some vellum to sample.
Sitting next to Debby, who by piercing paper was working with one of the most primitive way of making a mark, was Ceema McDowell, busily using the most modern of research tools to develop her peacock design…the strands of random dyed woollen yarn is reassuringly traditional.
And to me – what did I get to do? well not a lot on the day but I have had a frivolous idea for this project – it is not at all what I usually concern myself with, but it would not go away….so I told the group to see how they would react – they laughed but said it could be really interesting.
One of the daily chores of running a workshop -based studio is sweeping the floor before and after every workshop – and there always seem to be tumbleweeds of threads and fabrics under the tables and in the corners…
as well as spilled beads or left over buttons…….it was the buttons that made me ponder: why are there always masses of Beige Buttons left unused in any button collection?
I started to imagine where all the unused beige buttons will eventually go; will they fly off to a beige button heaven? Will they then become pearl buttons when they were beatified? I also thought of the threads and the fabric scraps…what would become of them if they flew to heaven – how would their wings look and what’s more – what would their eventual version of heaven look like?
I have been getting out and about recently and have been taking a workshop at the American Museum in Britain, which is situated just outside Bath. I have been asked to deliver 2 day long workshops by their education officer, Zoe Dennington (who found me via this blog). Zoe asked me to use Crazy Patchwork techniques for classes to run at the same time as the current vibrant Kaffe Fassett exhibition being held at the museum for several months.The second class is in October to make a crazy patched and beaded heart.
Luckily I was given a batch of cotton samples of fabrics designed by Kaffe Fassett to use in my workshop by a friend, Susan Berry ( who produces his very popular patchwork and knitting books) and they certainly livened up my Heart Space Studios fabric stash….I had designed a special project for this session, a simple design of a fan and one of the most popular motifs used in traditional of Crazy Patchworks.
I reasoned that if I provided patterns for the patches then things might go quickly and everyone would finish – well that was the idea! We started off by choosing the fabrics for each fan – there are 7 sections in the design that I had created for the class, which means less embroidery than my sample.
I had also asked people to bring whatever they liked of their own materials as well. The fabrics chosen were quickly organised into many different striped bands – I explained about balance of pattern to plain fabrics and crucially for a small colour scheme, to separate a few colours from the patterned fabrics and use them as plains or solids to show up the patterns. And not to worry too much about getting the colours perfect at this point as later the coloured stitching over the seams would help with the colour co-ordination of the whole piece.
organising the fan sections is much easier and quicker than for usual odd shapes of crazy patches. The sections were laid over one another and then pinned and using running stitches held section by section till the fan was complete. The complete arrangement was then pressed onto the special heat activated fabric backing
. Once the fan had been pressed and trimmed the next task was to find the coloured ground to applique it onto…I find that this is quite a good way to get people to appreciate the difference that different coloured grounds can make to the overall piece.
Sometimes soft colours can be made bolder if placed on very dark grounds and brilliant colours more muted if placed on a toning ground. It is also a chance to reassess the colours prior to embroidering the seams which also fix the fan to the background
Now to start embroidering – I had chosen to demonstrate 1 basic row of herringbone stitch and then show how to add extra stitches or I should say decorations…it is my favourite decorative embroidery stitch as it can be developed so that it looks almost like a braid. But to begin just a couple of well spaced rows…and then the extra colours can be added.
I like to use contrasting coloured stitches on the seams – they are very obvious but then I do not think it worth doing any decorative hand embroidery if it isn’t to be noticed!
although up close and personal the colours are very vibrant the more colours added to each row of stitching the softer the colours will appear more subtle
when soft colours are used to not much affect then the herringbone variations allow for extra emphasis – this is why I really like this particular stitch – it gives a lot of opportunity for invention
At the end of the session we put all the unfinished patchworks together on a table to assess them for further additions…. you can now see the affect that the Kaffe Fassett fabrics had on the works – but you would not think by looking at this picture of some of the group around the table that they actually liked what they are looking at !
. Everyone faithfully promised me that they would finish the fans and send me photographed results – watch this space…….